Greenfield Recorder, July 28, 2023

“And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights — the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation — the right to breathe air as nature provided it — the right of future generations to a healthy existence?” —President John F. Kennedy, June 10, 1963


These words above are from President Kennedy’s American University speech about world peace. At the beginning of Kennedy’s speech are the following words: “What kind of a peace do I mean, and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace — the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living — the kind that enables [all people] and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women — not merely peace in our time but peace in all time.”

If we value our children’s future, this speech is something that must be studied. In it Kennedy attempted to educate the people of the United States about the true peace process. It includes basic principles of peace that are universal and eternal.

In the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis, this speech signaled a radical turn in President Kennedy’s thinking against the Cold War and in favor of peaceful coexistence. In the months following the speech, Kennedy actively sought to put these principles to work, and there were tangible results.

All of this ended with President Kennedy’s murder, and the U.S. returned to a foreign policy 180 degrees in the opposite direction of where Kennedy was going. For the past 60 years there has been no deviation. The tragic truth of the U.S. is that our nation has been constantly pursuing a “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.”

Is it not obvious with the impending climate crisis, the escalating conventional war in Europe, and the threat of nuclear war that we are not being made more secure by a military budget now approaching $1 trillion a year?

If you want to do something for our children’s future, I urge the following: Pause for a half-hour today, or tomorrow, or some day this week and watch President Kennedy’s American University Speech. A video can be found here.

If you take the time to listen to this speech, to truly take it in, you will be changed. This is what has happened to many, but we need more to do it. If you take the trouble to do this, the next step is to stop for five minutes each day and think about what you can do to contribute to the process that Kennedy is describing in his speech. If you want to share your thoughts, let us know.

Dr. E. Martin Schotz is a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and coordinator of the JFK Peace Speech Committee, Massachusetts Peace Action. A psychiatrist, he lives in Cummington.